Cue Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” because Google has called it quits and relegated Project Loon to the proverbial dustbin of ideas that didn’t fly.
Back on October 15, 2018 (nearly two and a half years ago) we called Project Loon, “the (Google) conglomerate’s oddball internet balloon concept.”
Turns out we were far too kind. Loon wasn’t just odd, it was downright stupid. Google poured millions into the project over a nine year period, but couldn’t find a partner willing to ante up the big bucks needed to complete the project.
As a quick reminder, Project Loon was supposed to encircle the world with gigantic balloons that could beam inexpensive internet to unserved and underserved rural areas worldwide.
CNBC.com has the details:
“While we’ve found a number of willing partners along the way, we haven’t found a way to get the costs low enough to build a long-term, sustainable business,” said Loon CEO Alastair Westgarth said in a blog post Thursday. “Developing radical new technology is inherently risky, but that doesn’t make breaking this news any easier. Today, I’m sad to share that Loon will be winding down.”
These are dark days for Google’s “X” business unit. That’s what they call the business unit that tosses stuff against the wall just to see what sticks. In other words, its employees brainstorm wacky ideas and develop business plans, then pitch them to Google executives to see if the gazillionaires who own the company will fund them.
Dark days, indeed. In 2020, Google also killed off Makani, another wildly experimental project, that was designed to provide wind power from huge kites.
Google is so immense and so profitable that its profit and loss statement actually has a line item called “Other Bets.”
In its third-quarter earnings report, Alphabet said Other Bets generated $178 million in revenue compared to $155 million a year ago. Meanwhile, the businesses showed an operating loss of $1.10 billion, up from $941 million a year ago. Google, in contrast, earned $12.6 billion in operating income on revenue of $46 billion.
Got those numbers? It’s a good thing Google earned $12.6 billion on its primary business because it lost $1.10 billion on wacky schemes like Loon and Makani.
“Sadly, despite the team’s groundbreaking technical achievements over the last 9 years, the road to commercial viability has proven much longer and riskier than hoped,” added Astro Teller, the CEO of X and Chairman of Loon’s board.
They named it Loon, but perhaps they should have dubbed it Loony.